Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ten Quick Thoughts on...The King's Speech

1) The first two times I tried to watch The King's Speech, the story of King George VI and his struggle with his speech impediment, I fell asleep. I thought it was because I was tipsy both times or I turned it on too late. The third time, I made it through and I realized that the two times I conked out during the film were not due to alcohol consumption or need for shut-eye. No. It was because the film is kind of boring.

2) Colin Firth is a darn fine actor, and he does a very good job in the movie. This being said, I don't see why people were in such a rush to crown him with Oscar for this performance. I went into it expecting to be blown away by his work, and really it was a little underwhelming. I am now convinced that he was given the Oscar for portraying a guy with a speech impediment (the Academy loves characters with physical handicaps) or as a make-up call for not rewarding his incredible performance as a gay college professor struggling to recover from the loss of his partner in A Single Man. Maybe they should have given Firth the Oscar last year, and Jeff Bridges the Oscar for True Grit this year.

3) Geoffrey Rush. Another great actor who has been splendid in tons of movies. But they were talking about giving him an Oscar for this? Over what Christian Bale did in The Fighter? I know; Bale had the much showier character, and, in a way, that sort of thing flies in the face of what it means to be a "supporting actor." Still, nothing Rush did in this movie thrilled me. Not an award-worthy performance. This is a role he could play in his sleep.

4) And then there is Helena Bonham Carter. Her role was the same "supportive spouse" performance that has appeared in countless films since the beginning of time. There was literally nothing memorable about it. I don't get all the plaudits. I mean, she didn't even get nominated for Fight Club! Don't get me wrong: all three of these folks are tremendous actors. Still, the reaction to their performances was outsized to the point of being curious. Like, what am I missing? Maybe I just wasn't feeling the material.

5) Clearly, this film should not have been a Best Picture winner. I can name tons of movies off the top of my head that were better. Like The Social Network and The Fighter and Black Swan and Inception.

6) And True Grit and The Kids Are All Right and Inside Job and Winter's Bone. At this point, I am putting this down as the biggest Oscar Best Picture atrocity since Crash beat Brokeback Mountain. Or maybe since Slumdog Millionaire beat The Dark Knight. (Come to think of it, this should not come as a major surprise! The Academy can be pretty stupid.)

7) I hate to keep harping on the Oscars, but the biggest joke of that night in retrospect was The King's Speech director Tom Hooper's nod over heavy favorite (for a reason) David Fincher, who helmed The Social Network. Anyone who had seen the two films could see that Fincher's was the work of a master storyteller and a visionary genius. Hooper's work merely showcased a guy who is tremendously proud of his endless collection of fish-eye lenses. I am certainly game for an interestingly framed shot. Hooper's tendency to shoot from extreme angles and leave massive amounts of headroom behind characters to capture the ambience of the set design worked wonders for his John Adams mini-series on HBO (a brilliant must-see). However, I can only imagine that, on a huge screen, the visuals repeatedly on display in The King's Speech would drive one to a bout with vertigo. It was completely distracting and actually opposite of what one would expect from a "Best Director." How can you take a character's plight seriously when you are repeatedly forced to count his nose hairs? If he keeps this up, these shots will soon be as ripe for satire as the doves taking off were for John Woo.

8) What a shock that the Weinstein Brothers were the masterminds behind this film's marketing campaign. The duo were the same folks behind Shakespeare in Love when it inexplicably (to some) defeated favorite Saving Private Ryan for the Best Picture prize for 1998. Now I will be honest: I actually was one of the people who thought Shakespeare in Love was far superior to Saving Private Ryan. However, as a result of their money driving The King's Speech to an Oscar victory, I almost feel that I should go back and watch Shakespeare and Ryan again to make sure that I didn't fall victim to a humongous PR snowjob. The props handed out to the film are THAT insane.

9) After all, this is a film that would have you believe that the entire Nazi regime was conquered because some royal douche got over a case of the stutters.

10) In closing, the film wasn't completely without merit. I would look at it as pretty much an average film. The performances were decent enough, just nothing spectacular. There were some really provocative shots, just too many of them, which drove the thing to self-consciousness and took your focus away from the story. I even think some of the character development and pacing was faulty. For example, the part where King George finds out that Lionel Logue was not a "real" speech therapist came completely out of nowhere. No drama. Nothing. Just a clergyman looking skeptically at the speech therapist, and five seconds later the King is talking to dude about how he is a complete phony. And I hate how they kept reminding the stupid American audience that one of his daughters was Queen Elizabeth, who, of course, sits on the throne of Great Britain today. I get it. There is a familial line of succession. I also hate how they re-released the thing in theaters with the curses cut out after the Oscar ceremony in order to make more money. Anyway, I give it a C.

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